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Vitaliy Kozlovsky — young, handsome and popular
Vitaliy Kozlovsky, a journalist by education, is a rising Ukrainian pop star who has already released two albums and videos. He was twenty one when he performed at the Palats Ukrayina Concert Hall in Kyiv — the most prestigious concert hall in Ukraine. Earning the right to perform in Palats Ukrayina is like being given a ticket to further success. Incidentally, Vitaliy Kozlovsky was the youngest pop singer to ever perform in Palats Ukrayina.
Kozlovsky was recently interviewed by Mariya VLAD and Tetyana TRETYAK exclusively for Welcome to Ukraine Magazine.
Two of your albums have been granted the status of “gold albums.” What makes an album “gold”?
Kholodna nich (Cold Night) sold more than 60,000 copies in six months and, by Ukrainian standards, it made it “gold,” and Nerozhadani sny (Undecipherable Dreams) sold over 50,000 copies in three months and this also gave it the status of “gold”.
You were the youngest pop singer who performed at the Palats Ukrayina Concert Hall at age of twenty one. Did it cost a lot of money?
It did but it was worth it. We put on a good show, with many musicians and even a ballet troupe, with all the performers wearing all kinds of showy dresses. And we drew a full house. I did not turn to sponsors for help — in fact I produced the show myself.
Where did you get the money for it?
I was saving what I was earning — I put most of the money I earn from the sales of my albums and videos and from the live performances into promoting my career of a singer. I am not married yet and I can spend the money the way I want. Probably, when I get married and have children my priorities will change.
Who writes songs for you?
My good friends do. It is important for me that songs that I sing are written by people who know me well, who know what I want to sing about, who know my inner world. The text of the lyrics is very important for me and I am very picky as far as the lyrics are concerned. The lyrics must come from the heart. I don’t care for lyrics that create an image which is not close to my heart. My songs must reflect my feelings, my dreams, and my moods.
What if the song you are offered to sing does not quite reflect your feelings?
Then I either change the text or reject the song altogether.
Are you in the process of working on a new album?
Yes, I am. It will include all kinds of songs — from lyrical to fast and driving, but all of them will reflect my inner world.
Do you yourself write songs?
Yes, but I have not included any of my songs into my two previous albums. The third one will feature a song that I’ve written. I find that you should present your songs to the public only when you feel for sure you are ready for it. The new album will include a song which is based on a poem by Ivan Franko (Ivan Franko, 1856–1916, a prominent Ukrainian writer, poet, thinker and public figure — tr.). The poem is called Chomu yavlyayeshsya meni u sni (Why Do You Keep Coming to Me in My Dreams?). When I read this poem it went straight to my heart, and I realized I would like to perform it as a song — but in a manner different from my usual one. I began to explore the Ukrainian classical literature and the more I read of the Ukrainian classics, the deeper I felt the beauty of the Ukrainian classical literature. One of my most recent discoveries is Lesya Ukrayinka, Franko’s contemporary, and her poetry.
Where do you hail from?
My native city is Lviv — I was born and grown up there. Among the recollections of my childhood years is this one — my father and I, we are taking a walk in the morning, it’s a warm spring day, the sidewalk is dappled with the moving shadows of the leaves on the trees, the sunrays pierce the crowns of the trees, the air is filled with spring fragrances. The smell of spring was the smell of my childhood.
Are you aware of the fact that in the twentieth century there were two Kozlovskys from Ukraine who achieved a great success in music? One was Oleksiy Kozlovsky, a composer and conductor, and the other one was the famous tenor Ivan Kozlovsky. You are not related to anyone of them?
No, I don’t think so, but it’s a pleasant thought to know that the name Kozlovsky is associated with good music and singing.
When did you realize you had an ambition to become a singer?
It was my sister who influenced my musical tastes and who actually encouraged me to sing. Because of certain circumstances in our family life, my sister who was eight years my senior, played a very big role in bringing me up. She was a great fan of pop and rock music. After listening to audio cassettes with recordings of British and American pop and rock, we would sing songs we’d just heard for an enthusiastic audience. We held something that resembled a mike in one hand and sang into it, imagining a crowd in front of us. My sister’s favourite song was “Yesterday” by The Beatles, and I often sang it for her. I did enjoy doing that. Once I saw a show on TV, in which children took part, singing songs. I realized that even children could perform for large audiences — and I thought that I could do it too. That show was at the roots of my ambition to become a singer. I lived in the world of music; I was a dreamy boy who could spend hours listening to his inner music and staring out the window instead of doing his home assignment.
It was your soul that must have been singing then.
Probably. When I go on a tour abroad, I sing in Ukrainian, and people do not understand the words but they feel what my soul wants to express, what my message to them is. Once, when I was in Paris, I met my former school teacher who had been living in Paris for some time then, and she told me that those Parisians who heard me sing said that “you are a singer with a deep soul.” I was very pleased to hear that… At the start of my career I did my best to impress my audiences with my voice, but later I began to realize that no less important than your voice are the feelings and ideas that you want to render in a song and make your audiences feel it. When you sing just for the sake of singing, people may like it though the hearts will not be touched, but when you sing putting all your heart and soul into your singing, then your song may enter people’s hearts. I find it is very important for me when my songs make their way to people’s hearts.
Would you care to say anything else about your family?
My mother left us when I was thirteen. She went to Italy to start a new life… No, she did not get married there, she just lives in Italy and I live in Ukraine. My father often went on business trips, my sister was dating a young man whom she wanted to marry, and did not have time for me. I was at such a stage in adolescence when you feel you cross from your childhood into the world of adulthood and you need parental advice, when you need your father’s encouragement, your mother’s gentle assurance and I did not have any of it. No. I am not complaining — I am just stating a fact. And I did miss my mother a lot. And then I fell in love for the first time, and it was an unrequited love, and I was in despair, and I wrote my mom a letter telling her of my woes. She wrote back that she was very concerned for me, and my sister scolded me for writing such a letter to our mother. She said that our mother had enough of her own problems and troubles living in a foreign country without an additional burden of our problems. I felt ashamed for burdening her with my pain and misery… I think those years made me stronger, more mature. I grew up to be independent, I found my own feet. I learned to cook, and I could cook whatever dish I felt like having. I kept our home tidy too. I was sixteen then. Once an elderly man who knew of the circumstances in our family said, “You’ve got the soul of an old man.” I did not like what he said though I did not know what he meant.
Has your mother ever come back since she left for Italy?
She has. The first time it was five years after she had left. I was eighteen but she treated me as though I was still a kid. When I tried to talk to her about important things that were of concern for me, about life and its problems, she evaded any such talk. She just asked, “Maybe you are hungry? Let me cook something good for you.” And that was the end of attempts to have a heart-to-heart talk with her. Her life abroad had created a distance between us which could never be bridged.
Does your mother know that her son is a successful pop singer?
She does. She even came from Italy to Kyiv to see me perform at the Palats Ukrayina Concert Hall in my one-man show. I was so happy when she said after the show, “I’m so proud of you!” She did like the show though on that day which was December 15 2006, I had a fever, my voice was by far not in the best condition, and my vocal chords were in such a bad shape that in between the songs a phoniatrist gave me some medicine to keep me going. And, as you can easily imagine, I was not in the best of moods because of the state of my physical state. But when, in spite of all these things, I heard the enthusiastic reaction of the audience to my songs, I realized that instead of being a flop, my performance was going to be an unqualified success. At the end, exhausted but happy, I knew it was my day! And I did enjoy that feeling of success and achievement. Various emotions swept through me, and I wept tears of joy, and I laughed. I think I did manage to bring my message out to my audience then.
Why did you start singing in Russian after you had won at the Shans (Chance) contest?
The promoters and producers of that contest insisted that I sing in Russian. At first I did not want to accept it, I thought that being a Ukrainian singer I had to sing in Ukrainian, but gradually I came to realize that your thoughts and emotions could be expressed in different languages — Russian English, French, Italian or any other, and that it was not so much the language that mattered but those thoughts and emotions and the way you rendered them. But Ukrainian remains to be the number one language for me.
You seem to be a person who can’t live without public performances on stage. Are you a stageholic?
Probably I am. The moment one show ends I start thinking when my next show will be. I am driven by the desire to perform, to create something new. Once in a while I tell myself, “All right, give yourself a break, a respite for several days, relax, look for new sources of inspiration.” And then I do give myself some rest — but on the third day I feel that I have to go back to work, that I just can’t live without it.
But isn’t constant touring very exhausting?
It is. It’s very hard to be on the move all the time — cars, trains, planes and hotels sometimes make you feel that you can’t take it any more. But only for a moment. I love what I am doing. It’s my life and I can’t imagine any other life for myself.
Are you planning any tours to foreign countries? Did you ever think of participating in the Eurovision Song Contest?
Yes, I’d like to perform before foreign audiences. The more people in various countries hear me sing the better. In fact, I have already been on tours to foreign countries, and I have taken part in international song contests. I do hope I’ll win the right to represent Ukraine at the next Eurovision Song Contest, and I hope that the qualifying stages will be organized properly, and that everything will be done in an open and honest manner, and that the rules will be followed, and that the judges will not be biased. Unfortunately, this year it was not so. I do want to win the right to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest. I believe in myself, in my good luck, in my talent and in God’s support.
You are full of energy and vigour — where does your strength come from?
From many sources, but I think my main source of energy is God. Sometimes I do my praying several times a day. I give all my soul to the prayers, the way I do it with my songs. My prayers come from my heart. I believe that the heart is the temple of morality, conscience and God. Everything else can be gained. When it happens that I feel angry at someone, I imagine I am the child of that person and my anger goes away.
You have been to many places in the world — where did you like it best?
Of the many places I have visited, I like best Paris, Monte Carlo, Monaco and a couple of places in Macedonia. My latest foreign trip was to Jerusalem, a place of great culture and history. But it always feels so great to come back to Ukraine. Ukraine is my native land, I am a patriot of it, and I will always feel at home only in Ukraine. I respect other cultures, I like songs which are sung in various languages, but for me singing in Ukrainian is like singing with my soul.
Photo by A. PETROV
A still from Vitaliy’s video
Vitaliy Kozlovsky in the Cathedral
Photo by A. PETROV
Vitaliy Kozlovsky and his producer